Friday, May 18, 2012

"The Usual Suspects" with Chazz Palminteri, Benicio Del Toro and Kevin Spacey (1995)

With a cast like this one, this is a movie that I have revisited over and over again, for the sheer joy of watching the actors ply their trade. In this bizarre tale, written by Chris McQuarrie, a ship berthed pier side in San Pedro, is set afire and 27 victims are dead.  All of the “usual suspects” are then rounded up for interrogation. There is only one witness left, but his story makes little sense; or does it?

Veteran Customs Agent Dave Kujan, played by Chazz Palminteri, leaves New York, bound for the West Coast, in an attempt to find out who, or what, was the motivation behind the crime. And, just exactly what was the crime in the first place?

When a truck is hijacked in New York, six weeks earlier, things go horribly wrong, and five men; all career criminals; are brought in for questioning. As they sit in a common holding cell, they plot a way to “pay back” their hosts.
The Police in San Pedro Police discover $91 million worth of alleged drug money with the bodies. There are only two survivors. One is a badly burned, and scared, Hungarian terrorist; the other is “Verbal” Kint, played with perfection by Kevin Spacey, who is a crippled con-artist. Under pressure by Customs Agent Kujan, Kint is hard pressed to come up with a believable explanation for what went wrong. This is where the story really begins.
Dean Keaton, played by Gabriel Byrne, is one of the “usual suspects” rounded up. As an ex-police officer with a spotted career, he is the angriest of the 5 suspects. He is trying to go straight, and considers his incarceration to be an insult. He is talked into doing the proverbial “just one more job.”

Approached by the mysterious attorney Kobayashi, played by Pete Postlethwaite, the 5 men agree to the plan, which involves $91 million dollars, supposedly in exchange for some jewels. When the jewels turn out to be cocaine, the 5 men are less than pleased. But they are stuck, as Kobayashi represents a criminal mastermind known as Keyser Soze. As the 5 “suspects” are drawn deeper into Soze’s plans, they become aware that each of them have wronged Mr. Soze at some point or other; albeit unwittingly.

“Verbal” Kint, as the last survivor, is the only person who can put together the pieces of a puzzle so diverse, that it may take watching this film more than once to fully understand it. At least, that was my experience. “Verbal” is able to use all of his wits to outwit Customs Agent Kujan, and in the end the viewer is left wondering just who is Keyser Soze, and does he in fact even exist? This may be one of Kevin Spacey’s greatest roles. As a standout in a cast of some of Hollywood’s best character actors, this is a film you will want to re-visit from time to time, if only to watch his performance.

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